SIX years ago, Oregan Hoskins took over the reins as South African Rugby Union (Saru) president, tasked with the huge responsibility of converting the organisation plagued by infighting and back-stabbing into a respectable and ethical body — and there is no doubt he has achieved that.
But while Hoskins admits that he has made mistakes during his three terms — the last of which ends in early 2014 — he attributed his ability to restore the organisation’s shattered reputation to his morals and values and his promise to exercise “honesty, integrity and transparency”.
His legal background as an attorney, lawyer and conveyancer, he says, was also invaluable in making the correct decisions in the demanding position.
So effective has Hoskins been in his role, his efforts were also noticed by the International Rugby Board (IRB), which elected him vice-chairman of rugby’s governing body last week. While Hoskins makes no secret of the fact that there has been a healthy mix of good times and challenges in the past six years, he is satisfied with the way he has steered the organisation. ”I wouldn’t change the way I have done things, notwithstanding that there have been hurdles,” said Hoskins. “But there have also been a lot of positives. I have learned a lot and gained good experience from the interaction with Saru’s various stakeholders. That said, in hindsight there are perhaps a few things that I could have done differently in my first and second year in the position because experience has taught me to be more calm and level-headed in troubling situations.”
Commenting on the factors that have guided him in the high-pressure position, Hoskins said: “I don’t think I would have coped if I didn’t have a legal background. I believe it has given me an edge because law teaches one to look twice at the print in front of you and to look for little things that someone else would perhaps not notice. But the core values my parents drummed into me have also been instrumental in the way I have done things. When I took over the position I emphasised the importance of honesty, integrity and transparency …. I believe if one practises those values you will be successful.”
The two main challenges facing Hoskins before the end of his term, however, are the thorny issues of transformation and the inclusion of the Southern and Eastern Cape in Super Rugby. ”Like other black people, I also experienced the worst forms of apartheid when I grew up,” said Hoskins. “I went to a school in Pietermaritzburg which was rated in the bottom 10 schools in the country and where few people passed. So I know where I come from. I would really like to see transformation in rugby, but I cannot be irresponsible.
“If I had seen a black or coloured rugby player who was better than Victor Matfield or John Smit, they would have been in the national team. But we cannot reverse in two decades the fact that white people had better diets, skills training, grew up in a deep culture of rugby and went to the best rugby schools … so we have to be honest and realistic about the fact that if we don’t transform the character of the top rugby schools in the country, we won’t have transformation at an elite level.”
Of the Southern Kings’ inclusion in Super Rugby, he said: “Accommodating the Kings is a challenge, but it is important that we find a solution to accommodate everyone in Super Rugby .”
Another challenge facing Hoskins and Saru’s top brass is to appoint a Springbok coach in the next month who could guide the team to success at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. But with the union opting to head-hunt the best candidates, it is hoped the process will be a success.